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Greensboro council to consider independent investigation of Marcus Smith death

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GREENSBORO — On the heels of former Minneapolis police Officer Derek Chauvin’s conviction by a jury of murder and manslaughter in the death of George Floyd, the City Council said Tuesday it will consider holding an independent investigation into the controversial 2018 death of a Black man who, like Floyd, died while in police custody.

Councilwoman Michelle Kennedy made a motion for the council to talk about investigating the death of Marcus Smith, a homeless man who was forcibly restrained by police on Church Street.

Council unanimously agreed to hold a discussion as soon as possible.

In 2019, council had considered conducting an investigation but tabled it after Smith’s family filed a wrongful-death lawsuit against the city. That lawsuit is ongoing amid community calls for the city to offer a settlement to the Smith family.

On the night of Sept. 8, 2018, an agitated Smith approached officers who were working a downtown festival and asked for their help.

The 38-year-old agreed to sit in a patrol car before being taken to a hospital, but he became severely disturbed. When police opened the door, they placed him on the ground, binding his hands and feet behind his back.

Within several minutes, Smith became quiet and stopped breathing.

He was pronounced dead after being taken to a local hospital.

Smith died of cardiopulmonary arrest caused by a variety of factors, the state medical examiner said in an autopsy report. Among them: “prone restraint” at the hands of police, cardiovascular disease and drugs and alcohol in his system.

The autopsy report concluded that Smith’s death was a homicide.

An independent medical examination that Smith’s family released Tuesday concluded that the excessive force placed on Smith’s body caused by his restraint was the sole cause of his death.

Contact Richard M. Barron at 336-373-7371 and follow @BarronBizNR on Twitter.

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